"We can make it work, we just need to make it work"

with Lauralee Whyte, founder of Spectrum Speakers

Show notes:

TRIGGER WARNING: Discussion of miscarriage

Lauralee Whyte had no ambitions to be a business owner; she started her business because once she’d seen the problem, she couldn’t unsee it. Spectrum speakers is a business with clear vision and values, launched after Lauralee asked herself, ‘am I contributing or am I being complicit’.

Having worked in the events industry for many years, Lauralee had felt the side-eye that comes from leaving work on time to make school pick up (by the skin of your teeth). Now she has built her business around her daughter. We can make it work, we just need to make it work.

Lauralee is incredibly honest in our conversation about her situation, her decision making process and some big questions that we as business owners, humans and mums have to keep asking.

Listen in for:

  • The importance of building a network as a business owner
  • The ceiling that women hit in events and almost every industry & how we can change that
  • Lauralee’s biggest shocks after becoming a mum
  • How important it is for women to have financial independence
  • Her biggest career wins and not so wins
  • 3 tips if you want to start a business in the events industry

 

Links:

Website
Instagram
LinkedIn

Spectrum Speakers Links:

Website
Instagram
LinkedIn

Transcript:

Caroline

I’m going to be direct with you and, as the person Mary who edits my podcast will know, I am not the most direct person, but I am going to be right now, I want to get sponsorship for this podcast and I want it to grow because I feel the response from this community and the response from the growth in less than a year is that we need to continue these conversations and to do that, we need sponsorship. We need to be able to pay the team to continue to support me and my time to do this. And how can you help with that? Well you’re listening, so thank you very much. But please, please, please like or leave a review wherever you are listening right now. I literally left another podcast a review on Apple Podcasts the other day, and it took me two minutes. It took so little time. I did it from my iPhone. Please, please do it and come and tell me when you’ve done it so I can thank you personally.

Intro

Hello. I’m Caroline Marshall, and welcome to Bump to Business Owner the podcast speaking to mums in business. You. I’ll be in conversation with some of the most inspiring women and mothers in enterprise about their journey, how they created their successful businesses alongside raising their children and what that looks like in work and family life.

Caroline (00:00):
Hello and welcome to today’s episode of Bump to Business Owner. I’m your host, Caroline Marshall, and I’m so pleased to welcome Lauralee Whyte. Lauralee Whyte is an absolute trailblazer in the events industry with nearly two decades of experience from managing complex campaigns for global brands like Coca-Cola, and Dove to creating diverse talent and reshaping the speaker landscape. Her journey is one of relentless commitment to change. Lauralee is the founder of Spectrum Speakers. Spectrum was born from a clear need to fill the diversity deficit to disrupt the generic corporate talent industry and shine a light on the Women, BIPOC, LGBTQ+, Differently Abled, Neurodivergent and Socially Disadvantaged speakers and entertainers who are leading experts in their own fields, be that finance, technology, or wellbeing and not just be called upon to discuss diversity issues. In addition to this, Lauralee has recently taken on the role as Chief Hypewoman for It Takes A Village Collective, a global insight study, charter and membership amplifying black female talent in media and advertising. Lauralee is also a board director for Deaf Rave and a mentor for Elevate. Lauralee herself was the Dots 100 Black Trailblazers redefining the industry in 2021, she was also shortlisted for the We are the City Rising Star Award 2022, all of this while juggling another important role, motherhood. I got through it.

Lauralee (02:53):
Yay. I was like, who is that you’re talking about? Who is she? She sounds great.

Caroline (02:59):
Let’s not talk it down. You let’s own it. That’s why we do this. And that’s why I do those intros. I’m like, yes, girl, how much have you done? Oh my goodness. But it all starts somewhere, doesn’t it? And so I love hearing from women and moms who are making a change, which you definitely are, and you have an interesting career and business path. So tell us what led you to starting Spectrum Speakers?

Lauralee (03:23):
I mean, I’ve worked in the events industry my entire life pretty much. And I guess kind of fast forward the last few years of being a speaker agent, it was great. I was kind of working on great campaigns and with great speakers and entertainers, but it was really generic, just totally homogenous. And I know we were kind of talking about starting a business in the pandemic, but just to kind of jump ahead that I started Spectrum not because of the pandemic so much, but everything that was going on in the pandemic allowed me to kind of take stock on what was going on in the world, how was I showing up and how was I contributing or being complicit to some of the issues and challenges that were really prominent at the time. So namely, obviously the George Floyd murder and Black Lives Matter. And it just became evident to me that I was being complicit in my work by just kind of going along with the homogeny and booking the same speakers, the same profile of speakers for the same events time and time again.

(04:38):
And the only time I was being asked to book different speakers was just to talk about diversity. And it just felt a bit, sometimes feels a bit like trauma mining, and there are lots of people who are much more, or potentially not even diversity speakers or advocates who are just experts in their own, but they weren’t getting the recognition or the platform to talk about how great they are at what they do. So that was kind of how Spectrum came about really. It was just a bit of a light bulb moment that there wasn’t anything out there. And I always say I didn’t have any ambitions to be a business owner, but once I saw the problem, I couldn’t unsee it. And then Spectrum was born.

Caroline (05:30):
Wow. Thank you for sharing. And can I ask, were you working at the time of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter? Were you working for the other company and were you seeing them get more diverse panels because this is happening in the world versus it being just a proactive change how representation should be basically?

Lauralee (05:49):
Yeah. I was working for another company and there were lots of businesses doing pledges and talking about how they were going to make changes in the industry, but actually weren’t grasping the importance of representation.

Caroline (06:08):
And you hit the nail on the head there. It’s like, yeah, a woman doesn’t necessarily want to come be wheeled out on International Women’s Day to talk about finance. They want to talk about finance if that’s their area of expertise throughout the year and not talk about the women’s issues. That’s not their area potentially, as an example.

Lauralee (06:26):
Absolutely, definitely. And we are every single person that is not a monolith and we are intersections of our identity. And I think that that is important, but also sometimes it feels like the labour is on people from underrepresented backgrounds to do the diversity work when that’s not necessarily what they’ve been brought into a business or an industry to do, or not necessarily what they want to do full time.

Caroline (06:59):
And do you mind me asking, do you feel that from a business owner perspective of when people reach out to your business?

Lauralee (07:06):
Yeah, yeah, very much. And I said this at an event recently when I was on a panel and I said, ironically, I’m rarely asked to contribute to a panel to talk about the events industry or the speaking industry considering I’ve been a figure in this industry for such a long time. It’s almost always to talk about how we can bring about greater representation, which obviously is what I want to do, but also it’s just book my speakers. That’s how we can do it. Just

Caroline (07:41):
Reach out to me for, we

Lauralee (07:43):
Can keep talking about it, but also you can just book people that are from different backgrounds and you don’t actually have to talk to me. It’s fine.

Caroline (07:52):
Book me based on my experience and knowledge. That would be great for this.

Lauralee (07:57):
Absolutely, definitely. Let’s just do the thing.

Caroline (08:00):
And how has it been then? So how did you go from, right, I’m going to make a change, I’m going to start this business. How did you go about that for anyone aspiring in the events or speaker industry to do something like that?

Lauralee (08:14):
I wish that I could say, I wrote this business plan and I sat down and I squirrelled away X amount of money and I did this and I did that, but I didn’t.

Caroline (08:26):
No, we’re here for the truth.

Lauralee (08:30):
I wouldn’t say that I’m impulsive. It wasn’t like, oh, I woke up the next day and then I quit my job. But I had thought about it for a long time and I’m the kind of person who really struggles to stagnate, and once I decide that something isn’t for me, it gets to a stage where my heart’s not in that thing anymore. So I just kind of took the leap. I’m fortunate and privileged in so much as I spoke to my partner and I said, look, this is what I want to do. And he was like, okay, well, we can make things work for a little while. I spoke to people in the industry. I built my network. That was the first thing that I did. I didn’t have one in the same way I was known in the industry, but there weren’t really people that I could necessarily lean on and say, look, I’m doing this. So I just started to align myself with people who were doing the same thing like yourself and how we met during mother’s meetings,

Caroline (09:34):
Mother’s meeting, shout out to Jenny.

Lauralee (09:38):
Absolutely. So yeah, just kind started speaking to different moms, different women especially who were doing the thing who had done the thing. Yeah, just kind of built up the confidence. I knew what I was doing, I’d been doing the work, so it was just a case of getting out there and making it happen. So there was a bit of a transition period, I would say maybe about six months of me figuring out what my next move was, who I was going to speak to and building connections before I just did it.

Caroline (10:14):
I feel like I’m always trying on about it, but that’s exactly it. You leaned into what you should do. You were an expert, so it’s like, okay, I can do this. But then you communicated it to the person who’s supporting you personally, who’s your husband, and potentially financially for a bit. And you guys figured out what would that look like, and then you just got out there and built your community, which is where we all have to start, even if it is very similar to what I did with Upsource and having a background, you still need to get yourself out there during a pandemic as well. So I suppose actually for you, because least everyone wanted to bas during the pandemic for you, it was very bold to start an events business during that. Was your first booking online or in person?

Lauralee (11:04):
Funnily enough, it was actually, oh no, that’s not true. No, it was online. It was online and it was an international booking, which was great. It was online and funnily enough, I found it a lot easier to build connections during the pandemic because everyone in the events industry was at home.

Caroline (11:27):
Yeah, I say that a lot with Upsource actually. I feel it was so easy to build connections with other people because, and being pregnant, so I didn’t want to go out anyway, so it meant it was the best time to build a business when pregnant in one sense. I was also in that sense, that was the best time, wasn’t it?

Lauralee (11:48):
Definitely. Absolutely. That was it. People were a lot more open to conversations. As I said, the work that I was doing in kind of bringing about greater representation was obviously really topical at the time. It was the forefront of everyone’s mind. So it all kind of came together really nicely, even though I would say honestly, I didn’t have that much work for the first few months because the industry was so up and down. It was like I’d have a booking and then it would get moved because we’ve gone back into lockdown or all that kind of stuff.

Caroline (12:27):
I’m here for honesty. As a business owner, you can easily be like, wow, she’s got this speaker agency. And the reality is, especially at first, you’re like, yeah, I’m living day to day as if this will actually go ahead. And how old was your child at the time? So were you juggling homeschooling?

Lauralee (12:44):
Yeah, she must must’ve been about eight. Yeah, because 12 now. But even that in and of itself was interesting because before then she’d been in breakfast club and she’d been at afterschool club. She’d literally from the age of nine months old, we’d only spent a few hours together in the evening. I’d managed to in the early years do four days a week, but for the most part I didn’t do the kind of before school after school. So even that and the homeschooling was kind of a bit of a baptism of fire, but it was a blessing because for the first time in being a mother, I got to drop her off to school leisurely in the morning and not be stressing and running for a train and then running for a train on the way home. I could pick her up at three 30, we could hang out together and I could truly build my work in and around her and her needs. Yeah, it’s been the almost the best bit of motherhood so far in a lot of ways. Oh,

Caroline (13:50):
That’s so nice to hear what so many go out to do. And you got there. That’s so nice that from the age of eight you had this time with her. Did you go back to work from nine months then? How’s it going back in the events industry when you’ve become a mother? Because I’ve talked about a lot of industries and I think there’s certain ones which aren’t amazing for parenthood. So how was that?

Lauralee (14:14):
Yeah, definitely. It’s been tough. It is been really, really tough. I would say the first company that I was working for when I went back to work after maternity leave, I look back at that time and I think, oh, if only I’d known what I was to experience afterwards. So I left there after about a year when I was about one, just because I’d been there for five years and I’d wanted to change. And I felt like I’d reached the ceiling of my opportunities within that company at the time. And then I moved to another company and they gave all of the lip service about being progressive and understanding that I have to leave at certain times and everything else. And I would always work once I’ve picked Emma up from nursery after cooking, and then I would work up until stupid o’clock at night.

(15:16):
But the optics of leaving on time just put people’s nose out of joint. And I think at the time when I was doing it predominantly, a lot of the workforce were a lot younger, so they weren’t parents yet, but even those that were parents, I think they had nans and everything else. So they had made the decision that, I don’t want to say that that wasn’t their priority, but that was their workaround. And yeah, the first place I jumped to, I was there for three months. I left after three months because yeah, it was awful. The other place I went to was a lot better, but it was a maternity contract, ironically, so it was fine, but there wasn’t a place for me when the person came back from maternity who I was covering the next place, kind of similar. I was there for a longer time.

(16:15):
It was two years. But yeah, I mean, it was just always when you have to leave on time, everyone’s looking at you, it’s just the kind of feeling that you’re not pulling away. Even though, yeah, it was tough, but to get the flexibility that I needed, I went to a company that said, yeah, great, you can do your 9, 8 30 till four 30 and we won’t get you to do a load of work outside of that. But I had to take a massive pay cut. So yeah, it was really, really tough. And I definitely think that that’s the biggest challenge still for mothers in most industries, but especially the events industry.

Caroline (16:58):
And so that was your fourth company where you got to after parenthood that you found it, but then it literally came at a cost to find a company like that. Thank you for sharing it is that it blows my mind still that yeah, young industries and we can’t communicate with them why you have to leave and it’s even like you’re doing wraparound care nursery hours, I know at eight till six. So it’s not even the really short day that if you weren’t doing wraparound care. But I was at an event recently, interestingly, where we talked about this and it is that quite damaging, whether it’s mothers or fathers, where they have made that sacrifice of nannies and or have the privilege to do that and want to do that or pair and do those hours. So it’s kind of like you don’t care about your career unless you do that as well.

Lauralee (17:46):
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. That’s it. And I mean, I didn’t want to do that. I felt like I wasn’t spending enough time with my child as it was. And B, yeah, as you said, I couldn’t afford it on top of nursery fees and everything else, I can’t then afford the additional wraparound care and I just didn’t have the space in my house and I just didn’t find anyone that I wanted to leave my child with either.

Caroline (18:19):
It’s such an interesting one. We had one in the beginning who was still friends and babysits and we, it wasn’t full, it was very fixed hours. And then we had one for two after schools and they went and got another job and quite quickly in a different industry. It was great for them. We’re happy. It broke my son’s heart so much that I was like, Nope, not doing this again. I’m not bringing someone in who has that potential to just leave us.

Lauralee (18:46):
Yeah, absolutely. That’s it. Yeah,

Caroline (18:49):
I know some people, I’ve had people on this podcast who’ve been so lucky with their nannies and they’ve stayed for years, and I think I would love to welcome someone into my house that had had that staying of potential and would be right for us. But I feel like, oh, I’d rather just have people come in the business.

Lauralee (19:05):
Absolutely. Definitely. That’s it. And it’s a hundred percent different strokes, different folks, is that?

Caroline (19:13):
I was going to say different strokes,

Lauralee (19:17):
Different folks, different strokes, but it’s definitely not a one size fits all, not for the parent or the child. And businesses just need to be able to work around that as much as possible.

Caroline (19:32):
And what breaks my heart is so hard. You worked in those evenings as well. That is, we don’t talk about that enough. And then also the fact that sometimes having evenings with your kids, without your kids is a privilege in itself. We’ve just gone through a phase where I lost all my evenings for three months and we’ve got them back again, but three major tantrums are real and there’ll be something else that comes along. So you can never count them as a given. So I feel like the business should feel privileged that we have that time sometimes and then choose to spend it with them.

Lauralee (20:05):
Definitely. Absolutely. Because by and large, we’re only contracted for the number of hours that we’re contracted for, and it’s the expectation that you have to put in all of the extra time.

Caroline (20:19):
And I think it’s industries and why industries events struggle because it is so much of that extra time. It is based on your worth, would you say?

Lauralee (20:32):
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Definitely it. It’s very time poor.

Caroline (20:39):
It also probably makes an interesting parallel with creative industries. I did used to think this, so many women go to events, but there’s a lot of senior men in events and it probably highlights that reason why, because I always say it’s doing a lot better job of getting women in the fields after graduates. And then I think we’re now seeing where we’re losing women, sadly.

Lauralee (21:01):
Yeah, absolutely. Definitely. The ceiling is very evident. It just goes back to businesses actually doing the work, all of that kind of flexibility. It’s certainly possible within any industry, but actually the events industry, you have job shares, you’ve got flexible freelancing. There’s so many ways that you can keep and retain women of all ages and responsibility levels in your business. But I just think, yeah, there’s just kind of so much rigidity in structure and how things have always been done, just kind of creating and perpetuating the problem.

Caroline (21:48):
And they’re literally losing money. It shows now a diverse board, you make more money. So if there’s not even at least a moral duty there, were literally now say there’s a commercial duty here. So do you think this was your real shock for you for motherhood or was there anything else you felt, I always had someone on the podcast recently, we’ve been talking about pre motherhood and I think on a one-on-one basis, if I went to you Lauralee pre having a child and saying, this is going to happen to you, that’s a bit shitty. And I don’t tend to do that, but what do you think came as a real shock or if we’d raise awareness? Do you think it was literally making work work from your whole industry experience especially?

Lauralee (22:29):
Yeah, yeah, that was definitely a big shock I think in terms of the types of things that I was promised versus what I could get. But also I guess the biggest shock as well was probably how I approached motherhood. I think in lots of ways I was like, yep, I’m going to go back to work after five or six months and I’m just going to be fine and it’s all going to be fine. And it was like, oh, actually I quite like this. This is fun. I want to spend more time with this human that I’ve created. So not being able to do that as easily as I wanted to, but also I would say from a personal perspective is how it affects your relationships and networks and things like that, which obviously do have an effect on your work. I realised quite early on that I didn’t have anything in common with my daughter’s father. And just in terms of we didn’t share the same values in and around bringing up a child and as much as we thought we did and we just like, I thought we’d discussed this, I thought we’d agreed on this. And it was like, oh, actually we don’t fit together in this situation. I think that was definitely, we separated, we’re divorced now. Thank

Caroline (24:01):
You for sharing that. I think this is such a key point. I’m not divorced, but gosh, it has been turbulent sometimes the past couple of years of learning how to figure out each other around a child. And I think I remember the saying this after my first, and I think because it’s kind of a bit to do sometimes to talk about because everyone likes to be perfect, but I was a bit like, why did no one tell me how much this impacts your relationship?

Lauralee (24:27):
Yeah, definitely. Absolutely. And one of the things I say to friends, mostly girlfriends who are kind of getting to the stage where they’re like, I really, really want a baby, but I haven’t found the right person. I have a few friends now who are just doing it on their own. Oh really? Yeah, and it’s amazing and I love it and I’m here for it. And I say to people, if that’s the one thing that’s stopping you don’t go and do it on your own. Because you could have a relationship that ticks all the boxes and looks great until you have a child and then it might not exist anymore. So don’t let that kind of be the thing that stops you. I know not to say that, oh, it’s easy to do it on your own and without a partner, but sometimes it works out that way

Caroline (25:22):
And you can get a partner that works out and you even end up sharing the load. But I think I’ve spoken to many women who have partners and it’s like the load is not shared at all.

(25:34):
Absolutely. That’s fine. Some couples that works. But I think I remember, I think my baby was six months, I was full-time working. We had friends come stay cause their house was being refurbed, so they were like, go out for dinner. We couldn’t get through a dinner without an argument. It was literally things like that that I was like, wow, what’s going to happen to us? And I think it is this little got, even if you have talked about things or me and my husband, I think that’s probably why we’re still together, still have the shared values and the long-term goals and everything like that, but it’s so hard to navigate and I think that’s such an important point. And I think even because how was pregnancy for you? Was it something that came easily? Did you have to have support getting pregnant? What was your journey like with that?

Lauralee (26:22):
Actually getting pregnant was, well actually I had no troubles getting pregnant. I had quite a few miscarriages on the way to getting pregnant, and obviously that was really tough. So yeah, it was tricky. Again, it’s one of those things that nobody tells you. You just kind of think, okay, I’m ready to have a baby now and I’m just going to do the thing and then I’m going to get pregnant and it’s all going to be plain sailing from there on in. But we didn’t end up going through kind of IVF or anything. In the end it happened and it was fine and it was natural and I actually had a great pregnancy and birth, all of the textbook stuff. But all of that I guess takes its toll, the constant is it happening? And then the disappointment when it doesn’t happen and it doesn’t go through and then you’re like, who is it? Is it me? Is it you? So that before another human comes along and then your whole world is turned on its head for all the best reasons, but all the worst reasons as well. And I think in hindsight, there were already cracks and challenges in our relationship, but I think if you don’t have that really solid foundation, it can be the thing that tips you over the edge.

Caroline (27:54):
Thank you so much for sharing and yeah, I’m sorry for what you went through. And I think key part was then you said, oh, I didn’t have to do IVF. And I think sometimes we can dismiss what we’ve gone through. We know then other people have gone further, but it’s recognised you went on a huge journey to get pregnant, and so thank you for sharing that. And I can only imagine especially in the world you were in having to younger Lauralee having to navigate that and just probably pretend it wasn’t happening maybe

Lauralee (28:24):
In post. Yeah, absolutely. Definitely. There wasn’t actually no, do you know what I say that that’s not entirely true. I did have a really lovely two senior female bosses, one of which was going through the same thing. So I was able to speak to her and when I was pregnant and I was having a scans and everything, I could be truthful and let her know. So yeah, as I said, if I’d known in hindsight the other companies that I would work for afterwards, I wish I knew that they were actually really, really great and really supportive and unicorns actually in that sense.

Caroline (29:13):
Yeah, it is. So I think amazing. Good on you for changing career at the one year mark. But I think sometimes, yeah, I was in quite a toxic work environment and too scared to go and should have done before, but I can see when you then start to realise actually I was in a safe environment,

Lauralee (29:36):
Which

Caroline (29:37):
We shouldn’t have to be like, oh, that’s lucky, but that should be the

Lauralee (29:41):
Norm. No, absolutely. That’s it. Yeah, we should be able to take career leaps without those kinds of challenges. But yeah, I acknowledge that I probably didn’t realise how great they were at the time,

Caroline (29:57):
And I can only imagine during full-time working all these hours and things and then your relationship not working out. Was that pre covid or was that

Lauralee (30:07):
Yeah, no, that was pre covid. Yeah, it was tough actually. And again, I guess with anything quite financially, so I kind of had to make really difficult decisions about when I could end that relationship. IE once my daughter wasn’t in nursery anymore and I wasn’t paying full-time, nursery fees, I couldn’t support myself on my own in a property paying rent and paying nursery fees at the same time. So again, it’s all of those additional realities in and around being a parent and having those sorts of challenges because on paper, the amount that I was earning didn’t make me eligible for any other benefits. But actually if you’re paying nursery fees and you’re paying childcare and then you’re paying travel to get into work, it was tough. It was really tough.

Caroline (31:08):
Thank you for sharing that. And I think that’s so important to highlight. I think sometimes you can always see on the outside why someone is so driven and not see the reality. My parents got divorced when I was two, and it’s been very much for the best. You see, we’re a good functioning divorced family, but I have seen from an early age how important it is to be financially just stable, but be able to support yourself if you need to. But that is the reality of nursery fees and on paper earning a certain salary that you had to wait. And I think it’s very easy for people to be like, oh, hold back on your career. Don’t do this. And it’s like, do you know the reality of what someone might be thinking someone’s lived experience or someone’s actual experience?

Lauralee (31:52):
Definitely. Yeah, that’s it. There are so many variables, and I wish I had an idea for how these conversations can happen better at work and enabling employers, I guess, to understand and to investigate a little bit more about what their teams are really going through in real life. I think having a certain amount of support would’ve made those things easier and in turn promotes loyalty within your teams and boost morale and all that kind of stuff. It is always a win-win situation, but it’s one of those things where a lot of the time businesses, employers are, they’ll see it as a can of worms and will shy away from it, whereas actually your recruitment and your retention challenges are a bigger can of worms in the long run.

Caroline (32:58):
And you’d be happier at work, you’d feel like it’s a safe space and you’d be like, actually, I’m happy to go to work kind of thing. And I do think there’s that whole tradition of like, well, you can’t bring your whole self to work, but kind of thing. But then when we’re living in a world now, work is taking over our lives, surely there’s a payoff for that, that our lives then have to come into work. Do you think?

Lauralee (33:20):
Definitely. Yeah. There’s so much of a bleed now, and I think especially where there are more levels of flexibility within companies, if you’re working from home, it’s inevitable. You have life distractions in the background and even just with how accessible we are, even if we’re at work full time, it wasn’t like back in the day when you just had your house phone and you, someone would need message and then you’d get to it when you get to it, but you’re constantly accessible by text or by email. So yeah, the two bleed into each other constantly, whether you like it or not.

Caroline (34:05):
Have you seen anything since you started Spectrum coming into the events industry to support these changes? Has it from an optimistic perspective, have you seen that changes starting to happen in the companies and sort of events reaching out to you for your speakers? Are you seeing a positive change at all?

Lauralee (34:24):
Yeah, definitely. I did see something recently and I wish I knew, I’m going to find out what they’re called and I’ll come back and give you the name to add to your resource list. But I saw an event recently where they brought in a crush.

Caroline (34:39):
Oh, amazing. Yeah.

Lauralee (34:41):
So yeah, they brought in a kind of crush, nursery play area for parents to bring their children and then they can go and do what they’re doing at the conference, which I thought was fantastic. So yeah, so definitely things like that. I would say at events within going to events are better. They’re a lot more, they’re a lot more aware, a lot more conscious, a lot more inclusive. But I would say by and large, it’s still not happening enough within the organisations.

Caroline (35:17):
Okay. So yeah, it’s like they’re showcasing it on stage, but then it’s not actually the values of the organisation. Yeah, that makes sense. And what about paying as well? Are you seeing fees are levelling out for say, I dunno, just women and men as an example? Like speaker fees?

Lauralee (35:35):
Yeah. No, I would love to say positively. I would love to. I think what I’ve seen, and I’ve spoken to others, other people in my network in similar spaces, especially kind within diversity and inclusion, that there was a kind of peak at 2 20, 22 and then it’s kind of dropped off again. Sustainability quite rightly is obviously very high up on the agenda, but their conversations and initiatives that are happening in silos and they’re not being treated with equal importance. And I get obviously if we don’t have a planet, then DEI goes out the window. But equally, if we do manage to conserve this planet, then we need to all be working together in unity and to continue to conserve it by everyone being treated equal and being able to contribute equally.

Caroline (36:45):
And part of conserving the planet is making it a livable space for human beings. And that concludes and we need a diverse set of human beings to make it functioning

Lauralee (36:56):
Well. We have a diverse set of human beings, but it’s only mostly benefiting certain humans. So yeah, it’s like, yeah, how do we level that out at the same time as making sure that we are being environmentally conscious and sustainable? They’re both, I would say equal.

Caroline (37:20):
Yeah, it’s about continuing those conversations, isn’t it? Rather than just what the trends are. It shouldn’t be a trend. It should be a continued conversation on spectrum then. So what do you think have been your biggest wins so far and your biggest failures in the business? Is there anything you’re like, I totally shouldn’t have done that?

Lauralee (37:40):
Yeah, I mean my biggest wins is I’ve been really fortunate. Fortunate. No, I’ve worked hard and I’ve made really great connections.

Caroline (37:50):
Love that. You’ve not been fortunate, you’ve worked hard and made great connections. Yes.

Lauralee (37:54):
Yeah, I had to just check myself then, but yes, no, so I’ve been able to work with some amazing businesses instead have done lots of work with Microsoft, I’ve done lots of work with pwc. I’ve been able to work with some of the big logos and some really great talent as well. We recently worked with Romesh for an awards and he was just awesome and he doesn’t know it yet, but he’s like my new best friend.

Caroline (38:27):
I’m sure he does. He’s messaging you right now.

Lauralee (38:31):
Ha yes, like stop texting me, Lauralee.

Caroline (38:35):
Yeah. He’s like, okay, right, we’re going to have to have a talk.

Lauralee (38:40):
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So those have definitely been highlights. And also just the giving back. I don’t like to call it giving back, but that kind of work that I’ve been able to do doing mentoring and the work that I do with Deaf Rave, that stuff just, yeah, it really does fill me up. So those are definitely some wins.

Caroline (39:09):
How did you get into Deaf Rave before we jump into your failures?

Lauralee (39:12):
Yeah, so Deaf Rave, I went to a disability theatre show at the Barbican with a friend of mine and I saw the founder of Deaf Rave who is a Deaf DJ, and he was just pumping these bangers and everyone was dancing and it was just a vibe and he was just the vibe when somebody’s just magnetic. And I was thinking about him in connection with Spectrum and I was like, I want to know this person. And I didn’t really know very much about Deaf Rave at that point, but I reached out to him and said, I’d love to work with you across our events and have you as our kind of key DJ, which we’ve done and we still do and it’s fantastic. And at the time he was working on his IPO for the Arts Council and building his board and said, will you be on my board? And I was like, yeah. So yeah, so that’s how that came about. But the work that he does with schools teaching deaf children to enjoy music, his mission is I want every deaf child in the country firstly, but in the world to know and be able to enjoy and contribute to music. It’s just beautiful. It’s perfect.

Caroline (40:39):
It is, and thank you for sharing about it shows how you make things happen, and I think sometimes people just need that boost of being like if they see someone they respect, they want to get involved in, it’s like, oh, Lauralee can do it. I can do it too. Just ask. And it ends up leading to more opportunities like being on the board and opportunities for him, obviously.

Lauralee (40:58):
Yeah, absolutely.

Caroline (40:59):
So what are your failures then?

Lauralee (41:01):
There have been so many. I would say probably not having so much of a plan. I think that it’s been good for me in a lot of ways because it’s meant that I’ve been able to be flexible, but I guess I struggled with structure initially and how I was going to do things, how I wasn’t going to do things, and I would say another one of my biggest failures was trying to please everyone and be everything for everyone. I know when I first started Spectrum and I was like, I have this clear mission and I want to work with companies that are about representation, but when you are building your business and someone offers you money or all the potential of money, and in the back of my head I’m like, do they really align with my values? Are they really wanting to bring about greater representation or are they just ticking a box? So yeah, in those times when I didn’t go with my gut and just ended up embroiled in these client relationships that weren’t serving the greater purpose of what I wanted to achieve, not always staying true to my values, but I quickly learned how important that is.

Caroline (42:26):
I think we can all relate to that, especially in service businesses. Sometimes if a client comes along and hands you money and you’re like, oh, should you be doing this? And you don’t listen to that gut, which I think is hugely valuable, and we’re speaking more and more about it’s okay to listen to your gut. Not everything needs to be a logical decision. Someone was telling me the other day, it is based on logic, your gut feeling based on stuff that’s happened in the past that you are that happened that time. Should I be listening to my gut on this?

Lauralee (42:57):
That’s it. I mean, well, even physiologically, isn’t it? They say your gut is your second brain and the two work together symbiotically if you allow them to. So yeah, listening to your gut is logic.

Caroline (43:12):
Yeah, yeah, exactly. Excellent logic. And we always do it, and when we don’t do it, this is what happens. We talked briefly about how your life changed with your work week and things. Is it still like that then? Are you still working flexibly school hours doing this amazing business alongside that?

Lauralee (43:31):
Yeah, definitely. No, I’m still able to be flexible. Sometimes I work from home, sometimes I work from various coworking spaces. I think what’s been great now is now that I have a few other people in my business, it’s enabled me to take on this other project or it takes a village. So while I’m not, I guess a director, I’m kind of a founding consultant. So yeah, I’m able to kind of do that and do spectrum at the same time because I’m not all the time in the same way that I was. So yeah, so that’s been great being able to get to this stage where I can do other things and still not have to totally compromise on the hours that I spend at home.

Caroline (44:28):
Amazing. A successful founder would say you’ve started to take yourself out the business day to day, which is huge actually. So recognise that. And do you think, I’m now just thinking about you Lauralee trying to work all these hours commuting to and from. Do you feel like a completely different person now and more aligned with what you are meant to be doing?

Lauralee (44:51):
Definitely. Yeah, a hundred percent. When I think back to that life, it just seems crazy. Especially as I said, the commuting stuff, I would be up at five in the morning just so that I could have an hour to myself and maybe do some exercise before I got Irma up and then it’s like, come, go, go, go, go, go. And literally running up the hill with her to throw her in the gate at seven 30 so I could catch my train at 7 39 and didn’t speak to any of the other parents or teachers. It was like got to go. And then same the other way around, leaving work, rushing through to kind of get the exact train that I could get so that I could pick her up before everything closes and it is just, that’s before I’ve done a day’s work

Caroline (45:48):
And then you got to be on it at work. That’s what I think is so interesting, and this is part of this conversation piece that needs to happen, is I think someone not in motherhood early, say a, whether in their early twenties starting their events career probably would look at you on the surface and be like, she is smashing it. That’s the mother I want to be. You can do it. Whereas actually she should be looking at you now as the one who’s found her purpose, found her structure, parenting and very much career focus as well and successful and you found your way kind of thing. And that’s what we should be talking about is that how you were living is the traditional version of a working mother and now we’re through this podcast, able to talk to mothers like you finding a new version that is more successful, would you say?

Lauralee (46:40):
Yeah, and I want to say as well that it’s not for everybody, and that’s not to say I’m better than anyone, but I think there is a happy medium in terms of being really clear on your values and your boundaries at work and what your non-negotiables are and how much you deserve to earn and just making that happen and prioritising that. I think it’s possible. I don’t think it’s easy, but I think it’s possible and I think you need to be clear on what that is. And having a business isn’t for everyone and that’s okay.

Caroline (47:26):
Yes, definitely. If it was for everyone, I think we’d all be doing it. The perks are great, but it’s really not easy. But like I said, and part of the work we are trying to do then, which hopefully have businesses that employ people is that we make it more possible and make it more possible for people who should be employed and want to be employed alongside being a parent, would you say?

Lauralee (47:47):
Absolutely. Definitely. Yeah. I have a working mom in my business and she kind of does the hours in and around. We are output focused, so it’s not like, okay, you have to do this hour between this hour. It’s like, I need these things done today and do them however it works for you to get them done. The other person in my business, she works remotely. She’s not a parent, but she lives in Cornwall sometimes. She spends like six months in Australia. So that’s it. We can make it work. You just have to make it work,

Caroline (48:35):
Make it work. Love that, and thank you. And that’s why women like you should own businesses because you pay it forward to your employees and also to your mentee as well. So that was wonderful to hear. Laurie, it’s been an absolute pleasure. I’m going to end on what are your top three tips for someone looking to start a business in the events industry?

Lauralee (48:57):
So my first one is build your network. I think naturally in the events industry you have a network in terms of you have peers and people that you know, but there’s a different network for when you want to start your own business and that network of the people who have done it already, just start reaching out, start speaking to people. You’ll always find that people are actually really willing to help somebody else who’s been in that situation themselves. Second one is get support as early as you can. So like your business, it’s pivotal for women who are starting out on their own. You can’t do everything yourself, and it’s understanding the value of your time versus the value of paid support. I know at the very, very beginning it is really difficult, but actually you can’t do the finance, you can’t do all of the marketing. Wearing all of the hats is exhausting. So as early as you can figure out what your biggest need is and invest in that support and then set boundaries, set boundaries and stick to them

Caroline (50:14):
And stick to them. That’s the important piece.

Lauralee (50:17):
Exactly. That’s it. Create boundaries for yourself, for your clients. Get very clear on what you want that to look like, how many hours you want to work and what you want to earn and make everything fit into the longer term vision. And it’s not going to happen overnight, but once you get really, really clear on what that looks like, it’s not necessarily a business plan for everyone, but that’s the kind of core structure that you need.

Caroline (50:50):
A vision. I love that because some people, it’s so hard to sit down and write that plan, but oh, those were amazing tips and I felt so aligned with them. So thank you for the reminder. Now, what is next for Spectrum speakers and can you share some of your socials so we can go follow you?

Lauralee (51:07):
Yeah, I guess what’s next, just kind of onwards and upwards really. We definitely are going to be doing more of our own events next year, which is going to be exciting. So look out for those I’ll, and yet on socials, we are on Instagram at Spectrum Speakers uk. We also have a LinkedIn page, and our website is www.spectrumspeakers.co.uk. And you can also connect with me on LinkedIn, Lauralee Whyte with a Y, and yeah, that’s us.

Caroline (51:45):
Reach out. She’s lovely. Thank you so much. You’ve learned new things about you today and it was really helpful to have you and speak to someone in an industry that I feel very together with from the PA industry. So no, thank you and thank you,Lauralee (52:05):
Thank you.

Outro

Thank you so much for listening to Bump to Business Owner. I hope you enjoyed the conversation. Please do rate, review, follow or subscribe wherever you’re listening. It really helps us to connect with more mums and business owners. You can DM me at Bump to Business Owner on Instagram and I’ll be back next week.

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